From Despair to Hope
The John and Delila Glick Story
Story by Hannah Luttrell / Photos by Michael McElroy
"I want to be excommunicated." Delila Glick looked straight at her bishop, her steady voice belying the twinge of nervousness she felt inside. From the outside, Glick looked like any typical Amish woman, her waist-length hair neatly twisted up in a bun and tucked beneath a white prayer covering, and her long, full skirt lightly brushing the floor of the bishop’s house.
Yet, what she said was anything but typical. Being excommunicated or shunned from the Amish community was a severe punishment used to pressure a wayward member to repent and return, and asking for such a sentence was defnitely not a common occurrence.
“Why would you want that?” the bishop frowned.
“I don’t understand the way you are treating my husband,” Glick explained. “I feel the same way he does, and I want to be shunned as well.” Her husband, John, sat quietly next to Delila, silenced by his status as a shunned church member.
Several weeks earlier, the church had caught John using power tools and a Bobcat® to help a friend. That went directly against the Ordnung, or rules of their strict Swartzentruber Amish sect. The only excuse for using power tools, cars, phones and the like was if someone’s life was in immediate danger. “You’re trying to worship two gods: the rules of the church and now the world by using these forbidden equipment,” the bishop had said, inadvertently revealing the level to which he had elevated his church.
The sentence from the council was swift: six weeks of excommunication—no business or social interaction with any Amish church member. For any Amish living within the Lodi settlement in Ohio, the community was their entire world. Excommunication meant no buying or selling of any goods or services, no social gatherings, not even a meal with any member, including their own family. At church on a Sunday, the council told John to go home, but his wife and children were to remain at church.
As John drove his horse and buggy home alone, he never felt so low in his life. The bishop had told John that he could not be forgiven after willfully “sinning,” despite knowing the church rules. “If I am that bad,” thought John, “then why should I be with my wife or kids ever?” The weight of the condemnation bearing down on his soul drove John to consider taking his own life. He wasn’t sure if he could still be saved if he did that, so once he arrived home, he grabbed his German Bible and started reading, searching for a passage that would give God the “right” to let him kill himself.
Yet, as John combed the pages of the gospels, he found anything but that. Instead, he found relief, joy and truth. What he read not only went against a lot of his long-held beliefs, but also showed that the ways of his bishop and church did not match up with the Bible. He shared his discoveries with Delila, and together they began to pray and study the Bible. Initially hesitant, Delila knew that if they continued on this path, they would soon be leaving their family, friends and the only world they had ever known.
Nonetheless, as they continued to study, Delila realized that Jesus had to be first in her life. He was her source of comfort—not her parents, her siblings or even her community. As they neared the end of the six weeks of excommunication and of studying the Bible together, they knew that, despite the consequences, they would have to leave the Amish church—permanently.
“You need to talk to Andy,” remarked John’s cousin, after hearing his dilemma. Andy Weaver was a former Amish church member with whom John had never quite seen eye to eye on his beliefs. But that was before. Just one day after John’s official six weeks of banishment was over and he was reinstated back into the Amish church, the Glicks took a huge risk by parking their buggy behind Andy’s barn and sneaking into his house for a Bible study. Within a few months, John and Delila joined Weaver and his wife, Naomi, not only in the Bann—or the state of permanent excommunication from the Amish church—but also in the Amish Seventh-day Adventist worship community in West Salem.
John had always assumed that anyone who didn’t dress like the Amish was “of the world.” But at his first church service at West Salem Mission, when he saw the “English-dressed” worshippers pour out their hearts to God in sincere, heartfelt prayer, John broke down and cried. Seeing people who looked so different from him and yet believed so strongly in the Word of God made him realize just how many of his past assumptions needed changing.
“People think I left the Amish church to get more pleasure, more materials,” remarks John. “In some ways, it’s partly true—I did want a truck, a phone and a Bobcat®. But now I know I don’t even need all that—all I need is Jesus. Actually, if I wanted pleasure, I would go back to being Amish because there is nothing in this world outside of God that can give more pleasure than being with family. But as much as I am homesick for my family, I know I can’t put family above the Word of God.”
For Delila, being shunned by her family of origin was the hardest part about leaving. Her family had always been close, and, even as adults, the times her parents and 13 siblings spent together were always full of fun. But according to the letter she received from her parents, she was no longer welcome in their house, nor any of her siblings’ homes.
Yet, while there was a lot of stress in leaving everything behind, Delila notes that today she has half the stress than she did back then. Says Delila, “I have so much peace knowing that I can come to God as I am and be accepted!”
Life is not worry-free for the Glicks. Leaving the Amish also meant leaving behind John’s profitable construction business, as his former Amish customers and workers can no longer do business with or work for him. Business on the outside is very different, and John struggles to figure out how to run a business and pay people regular outside wages.
Among all the new things John and Delila are learning, the most important is reliance on God. Notes Delila, “Being Amish, you aren’t really taught anything about trusting God. It’s all about traditions and rules and just doing what you are told. After we first left, there was a weight on our shoulders—from our own salvation to making ends meet. But after we started open prayer—not just praying from the Amish prayer book—our entire outlook changed. We started trusting God that He would lead us. He has, and we know He will continue to do so!”